Team South Africa’s cycling team added to the overall medal tally for the nation over the past four days in the Team Time Trials, Individual Time Trials and Road Races at the 2015 African Games in Brazzaville, Congo.
Kicking off the cycling events on Thursday 10 September was the Team Time Trial for the men and women’s teams, with HB Kruger, Shaun-Nick Bester, Gustav Basson and Reynard Butler securing a gold medal for cycling when they clocked 29 minutes and 40 seconds along two laps of the 12.5km course. Algeria finished second, 24 seconds adrift, with Rwanda third. Out of the 18 teams that had entered, three never started, including Eritrea as their bicycles failed to arrive from Dubai.
“It was quite fast and flat but the road surface was tough and it’s surprising that none of us got punctures,” said Kruger. “The wind also picked up but we rode very well together as a team.”
The women’s team completed the same distance and claimed a silver medal after Nigeria caused an upset. Lise Olivier, Heidi Dalton, Catherine Colyn and Zanele Tshoko finished four seconds off Nigeria’s pace.
“That was a big surprise. The Nigerians came from nowhere to get this gold,” said Olivier. “We were watching out for teams like Ethiopia, Eritrea and Namibia, but not Nigeria.”
The Individual Time Trial on Friday 11 September yielded another two medals for the team, with Gustav Basson claiming a silver medal in the men’s race and Lise Olivier a bronze medal in the women’s race. Both men and women competed on the same 12.5km loop through the town.
Basson’s silver medal time was in 15:18.55, 3.93 seconds behind Eritrean gold medallist Meron Teshome Hagos (15:14.62). “I could probably have gone a bit quicker,” said the Potchefstroom local who trains under 1994 Olympian JP van Zyl. “I was off for more than two months with a prostrate gland problem and have only been back in the saddle for four weeks now.”
Olivier, considered the veteran of the team at 32, was pleased with her result. “It is my first time trial in three years and only the second time I’ve ridden this new bike. The first time was in the TTT. This wasn’t our strongest side as our top girls are away in Europe but its always great to get another medal for the team and keep South African and women’s cycling in the news.”
Saturday’s women’s road race saw Lise Olivier claim another bronze medal in a sprint finish to the line after 62.5km. Olivier was pipped to the post by her former Time Freight teammate Kim Le Court (Mauritius) with Nigerian Gladys Tombrapa claiming second, all recording a time of 01:47:45.
“We went out hard and aggressively and really tried to make the racing hard,” said Olivier. “The plan was for me and Heidi to go with a kilometre to go. But Heidi crashed 2km from the end, which left me and I am not a sprinter. Still, it’s good to get two bronze medals.”
The weekend’s racing was rounded off with yet another medal, this time a silver medal for Reynard Butler in the men’s road race. In very hot and dry conditions, the 26-year-old finished 31 seconds behind Rwandan Javier Hadi in the 150km race.
The early work was done by HB Kruger who was one of a group of nine who managed to get away and build up a lead of two minutes at one stage.
“At the beginning it was a bit chaotic with the guys attacking and all the crashes,” said Butler. “After Gustav’s crash we were a bit underpowered with one guy less and we had to work extra hard. We were happy with HB in the breakaway but would have preferred one more guy up there. When we heard HB was off the pace we panicked a bit and then put Thula (Mxenge) up front and he did a huge amount of good work up front for about half a lap and that saw the first group starting to disintegrate.
“Everyone except the Rwandan came back together and we prepared for a bunch sprint. So I told Shaun-Nick that I was good and he and HB looked after me.
“I was on HB’s wheel and we decided to take the inside line around the final corner 350m from the line, a bit risky because there was a slope or a drainage feature there but it meant that we had a nice line as the others went around the outside and it turned out to be the perfect spot.”
Reflecting on his medal, Butler said: “Yeah, I’d say this is pretty much the best medal I’ve got so far in my career.”
Race information source: www.sascoc.co.za